tv Washington and Hamilton CSPAN April 22, 2017 10:50am-11:51am EDT
we hear a panel of historians on the relationship between alexander hamilton and george washington. they will talk about thomas jefferson's opposition to hamilton's federalist party platform and how hamilton's immigrant experience affected his political views. they also explain how hamilton may have helped shift washington's opinion on slavery. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long event. >> tonight's program is a lecture in american history. we thank carl for his wonderful support, and i would also like to recognize a few other people in the auditorium this evening. the heart of our public programs, as i think you all know, is the bernard and irene schwartz distinguished speaker series. and mr. swartz has also helped
start -- he began it with us -- the bernard and irene shorts classic film series, now in its fifth year. and it is just growing and growing. so mr. swartz, thank you so much. let's give him a great hand. [applause] >> i also want to recognize joel pickett, david's elastic, trustees with us, and all the chairman's counsel for all the great work and support. let's give them all a great hand, as well. [applause] >> so the program tonight will last an we will have a question hour. and answer session. we are doing the questions on cards. it works better, everyone gets a chance to ask questions, and we get a lot more questions covered. so you should have received a pencil and a card. if you have not, staff will go up and down the aisles with them
, and then we will collect them and hand them to our moderator. there will be a formal book signing after the program, so please stay for the book signing. the books are for sale. in the museum store on the 77th street side. so we are so happy to welcome john steele gordon, the speaker to me, to the new york historical society. he is a writer and historian specializing in business and financial history. he is also a contributing editor at philanthropy and wrote a business of america column for american heritage from 1989 also served ashe contributing editor. as many books include hamilton's blessing and his latest "washington's monument." ,we are also thrilled to welcome back akhil reed amar, professor of law and political silence -- science at yale university. before joining the law school, the professor clerked for judge first stephen breyer.
he is the recipient of yale's highest award for teaching excellence. he continues to teach us every time he is on the stage. he is the author of several books, including his latest, "the constitution today." professor amar is also an honorary scholar trustee here at new york historical. our moderator is carol berkin. she is a professor of history in the root college and the graduate center new york. , an esteemed historian, she has appeared in numerous documentaries, including the pbs special "alexander hamilton." professor berkin is author and editor of several books, including "a brilliant solution," inventing the american revolution, and her forthcoming book "the republican peril." she will be with us again for that as well. before we begin i would like to , ask everyone, if you have a
cell phone, please turn it off and to please enjoy this program. have a great night and we will see you again. thank you so much. [applause] carol berkin: welcome. both george washington and alexander hamilton are enjoying a new and favorable press these days. although washington has always been lauded as first in the hearts of his countrymen and the father of our country, his intellect and his political skills have often seem to be eclipsed by the brilliance of the men who surrounded him. yet recent scholarship has come to reassess the president and to see him as a skilled political leader and an active shaper of our political traditions. he is now lauded for what some today might call his social intelligence, his ability to read the situation well and to assess what response would be
most beneficial and effective. hamilton, of course, is now the darling of broadway. [laughter] carol berkin: where once he was dismissed and loathed on occasion as an elitist, contemptuous of the common people a man whose fiscal and , economic policies somehow produced the corporate abuses of the gilded age and today, he has now been redrawn as the exemplar of america's immigrant rags to riches story, as a young, bold patriotic genius, the very symbol of the virtues of the melting pot. we are fortunate tonight to have with me two scholars who are renowned experts in the world of 18th-century america and who will help us peel away the myths and exaggerations that often cloud our understanding of these two central characters in our past. i want to begin with two questions about the men
themselves. how would you assess the character and temperament of washington and hamilton? what you think their strengths and weaknesses were as public figures, and even as private individuals? john gordon: well, i think washington and hamilton were very, very different men. they came from different backgrounds. i mean washington physically was very big for his age. hamilton was somewhat on the small side. washington was, he was very steady, but he was not an intellectual. hamilton certainly was. he was one of the brightest people who ever walked the earth, i think. and was always in high gear. hamilton, he would have worn me out in 20 minutes. whereas washington was much more steady. and that is perhaps why they made such a great combination. they were, you know abbott to
, costello or whatever. carol berkin: now you are dating herself. -- yourself. john gordon: maybe rogers and hammerstein is a better combination. hamilton of course came from a very poor background. he was -- john adams, who could be a right nasty man, dismissed him as the battered bastard of a peddler. he was not legitimate. his father was not a peddler. probably a more accurate to call -do-well, whone'er deserted the family and then his mother quickly died, leaving him an orphan at seven or eight years old. he more or less was on his own from that point on, and he literally grew up in a countinghouse belonging to majoras kruger, who was a merchant in st. croix in the west indies. from the very beginning, he knew about getting and spending and accounts and how you had to buy
low and sell dear if you wanted to get ahead. most of the other founding fathers, the major founding fathers, had been born into far better economic circumstances. some of them born into very good circumstances. thomas jefferson was one of the richest men in the colonies. of the major benjamin franklin ones, came from a lower middle class family with a great many children, but of course by the time of the revolution, franklin was old, venerable, world-famous , and very rich. he was a very good businessman as well as being a genius. and so the main difference between hamilton and washington was they made a great combination. they filled in the missing parts of the other. carol berkin: akhil. akhil: i think the metaphor of a combination is a nice one. washington was acclamation the
greatest horseman of his age. we can think of hamilton as the fastest horse in the state, but only washington could ride him. [laughter] dale gregory: when you have -- akhil amar: when you have a great horse and a great jockey, that is a pretty extraordinary combination to behold. washington of course is a horse whisper it. he himself is a person of volcanic temperament but he learns early on to control himself. he learns self-mastery, and he is this horse whisperer who actually calms the very high strong very skittish, very fast , alexander hamilton. and hamilton when washington isn't around, gets himself into trouble. when washington monitors him, after washington -- give washington credit, he recognizes talent. he surrounds himself with people
who are smarter than he is on points, -- kind of points grounds. , you put it well, he has a social intelligence, and they all look up to him as their master. and he his left and hamilton on his right in the cabinet, and try to get them to at least talk to him and report him so he can be the decider in chief. the relationship is even more interesting and complex in that washington has no children of his own. he has no son. hamilton, as we heard, really has no father. they find each other. washington does refer to him as "my boy" from time to time. there is an affectionate overlay. there actually is a quite interesting, ridiculous but
interesting rumor that circulates. americans -- there have always been this paranoid strand of american history. the rumor is that hamilton is actually the illegitimate son of washington. [laughter] akhil: it is preposterous because one is 6'3" and the other is 5'7". but washington at a young age did take a cruise -- [laughter] akhil: i am reporting what people said at the time. they are living in a time when all the narratives are of secret birth. arthur being the secret son of uther pendragon. of jesus being actually the descendent of david, but no one but the magi knows it at the time. british history is littered with secret sons.
and in fact, washington is there three years before hamilton's birth and he never really goes to st. croix, but i have not seen the birth certificate. [laughter] akhil: this amount of -- because even ridiculous paranoia captures certain truth. there is extraordinary chemistry between these two people, and one way of thinking about it is, to some extent, a father-son relationship. carol: that is what i want us to get to. their relationship is the subject of several books. people ponder -- >> we're going to come on and fix akhil's microphone. you can keep talking. we will try to switch something out.
there is some interference, and we want the audience not to hear the crackling. keeps talking -- keep talking now. i'm sorry to interrupt. carol: where was i? the relationship. i want to read you a quote from hamilton. people have often taken two quotes out of context. one is that hamilton says that washington was a great shield. immediately if you are a jeffersonian, you say, see, he used washington. he didn't really care for him he , was only using him and did not care for him. at one point in hamilton's relationship with washington, washington says to him when he is an aid to camp, he says come see me immediately.
hamilton says yes, but he runs hamilton says yes, but he runs into the marquis lafayette and he stops to chat with this young and charming fellow. washington is furious. he says, you kept me waiting 10 minutes. hamilton says, i only kept you waiting two minutes, sir. they argue and washington is unrelenting in his disapproval and hamilton is furious. he writes to a man who would be his father-in-law, "i always disliked the office of an aide de camp. for the last month i have felt no friendship for him. and have professed nun. -- professed none. our dispositions of the opposite of each other and the pride of my temperament would not allow me to profess what i do not feel." i have an 18-year-old son uses the same thing about me on a regular basis. [laughter] carol: there is a danger in
taking these momentary statements and reading into them a relationship, a definition of a whole relationship. i was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about -- was this a mentoring relationship? did it change over time? was it purely a political alliance? do you have anything more to say about the character of this relationship between the two of them? akhil: we could contrast the relationship with jefferson's relationship with washington, which i think was more about his disloyalty. jefferson backstabbed washington. he said things behind his back , mobilized opposition to washington's policies, and then
denied it when confronted by hamilton. they are all forceful people, but hamilton is going to stab you in the chest, not the back. carol: and then write 58 pages defending himself. john: in one night. [laughter] carol: right. akhil: you are right, it is a relationship over time. good ripens. -- it ripens. washington trusts hamilton throughout the course of his life. at the end of his life, the twilight, he is being summoned back into possible national service one more time just when he thought he was finally going to be able to rest at home comfortably. john adams says, there is a quasi-war with france, will you ride yet again to the rescue of your country? washington says yes, but you have to let me pick my deputies. just as today, cabinet officers might say i will serve only if i can pick my staff.
and he wants hamilton. he knows he can trust hamilton and he knows all of hamilton's talents. if he is going to take the blame for failure, he's going to want his guy helping him and hamilton is his guy. carol: john? john: i think hamilton was -- because of the circumstances of his birth, was fiercely ambitious. he wanted to rise. washington was born what was born into what was called the middling sort of landowners and then became quite rich when he married martha. washington, while he was certainly ambitious in one way, he was less ferocious about it. there was a story i have always loved, at the end of the revolutionary war comment before the treaty of peace was signed in 1783, king george the third was being painted by benjamin
west, the artist born in this country but who made his career in england, and as often happens between sitters and portrait painters, they were talking. george iii said, what is george washington going to do upon the signing of the peace treaty? west says, he is going to retire from the army and return to mount vernon. george iii is absolutely astounded and says, if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. and of course that is exactly what he did. george washingtons come very few and far between. the only one i can think in the 20th century that begins to approach it is nelson mandela. carol: it is interesting, i always thought washington cared about his reputation and hamilton cared about being recognized. john: yes. carol: that was a different as
explained in large part by their backgrounds. but hamilton's desire to be acknowledged was really unquenchable. akhil: hamilton's love of fame, it is the ruling passion of the noblest minds. john: hamilton when he got caught in an affair, was willing to make it public. it is inconceivable that washington would even be in an affair. public tomake it prove there was no financial corruption. it was just then stupidly doing what men stupidly do, but nothing of a publicly dishonorable nature. john: hamilton did this, this was not his only affair. martha washington named one of mount vernon's tom cats hamilton. [laughter] carol: women called hamilton little adonis, and men called
him little mars. the difference is remarkable. i think one of the things that endears hamilton to me is that he was not ambitious for wealth or himself, he was ambitious to create a powerful nation. of all of the framers or founding fathers, no one burned more with the desire to make america -- i am afraid to use this phrase. [laughter] carol: to make america great for the first time. early on in washington's first administration, he says to the british ambassador to america, he says, we are young, we are not there yet basically, but we are going to one day be everything you are and more. i think that was really what
drove -- we talked about public service, i think his ambition was channeled almost entirely into this kind of public service, and he really wanted to be acknowledged for that. akhil: and not just public service, but especially for hamilton but also washington, national public service. as an immigrant, hamilton does not grow up as a virginian or new yorker with a primal attachment to one state or another. he is in a position to make a vast amounts of money come he has inside information as secretary of the treasury, and is never interested in cashing in that way. washington himself comes to associate his own ego and ambitions, in part, and he says actually, i can redo one thing he says in a first draft of his
inaugural address. because he has no children of his own, his child is the nation, and uniquely -- jefferson and madison, they are virginians all the way to the end. washington comes to respect new york more in some ways than virginia. he comes to recognize some of the yankee virtues, the northern virtues. he has an army that is north and south. they are distinct, not just public service, but national. carol: hamilton has a great phrase. he said he wanted men who fought y not provincially. , akhil: here is the first draft of washington's first inaugural, which he gives here in the city of new york. madison convinces him to take this out.
"divine providence is not that my blood transmitted or my name enduringted by the in dur channel of immediate offspring. i have no child for which i can make a provision, no family to build in greatness upon my country's ruin. no earthly consideration except to render service to our current country could have persuaded me to accept this appointment. you can trust me, i will not become a king." and in a great biography of washington, one of the chapters is called "children not his own." carol: let me move on to political roles. what do you think washington's vision for america was? we have touched on this, but what do you think he considered his most important role in achieving it?
hamilton, what was his vision? i often feel hamilton was sometimes the sole visionary of this group of extraordinary men, even before independence was one won he is mapping out how to make america a great power, to take its seat with the world's great power. what was his vision, and how did he see his role in making it a reality? i spent a lot of time looking at hamilton's programs and i finally understood them because of his amazing discussion of them. [laughter] john: i think, when hamilton -- when he became secretary of the treasury when he was still in his early 30's, he faced a
really very serious economic problem. we got the constitution because basically the country was unable to pay its bills. the articles of confederation were just too weak. he becomes secretary of the treasury. washington had first offered it to robert morris. who was the financer of the revolution. that they did not ask him to many questions about how he did that. morris turned him down because he wanted to speculate instead. a bad decision. carol: he ended up in jail, right? john: yes. and morris said, hamilton is your boy. what hamilton faced was the government was deeply in debt but nobody knew how much because , the american revolution had been financed with what were called continentals.
they just printed them. as fiat money always does, it depreciated to near worthlessness and a lot of it ended in the hands of the speculators who would give one cent on the dollar. he said that a national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing, and it has turned out to be that exactly. it saved the union in the civil war, it saved the economy in the 1930's, it saved the world in the 1940's. why we have quintupled the debt in the last 40 years is another question. how to do that? he came up with a brilliant plan to refund the debt, refund the continentals, which would give all of the speculators profit. a lot of people thought that was wrong, they should not do that.
madison said only the original holder of the debt should get the fair value and speculators should get no more than what he paid for it. hamilton pointed out that was hopelessly impractical. also he said, if you begin to decide how much money you owe to somebody, how much you are going to give him by what the paper says, people will charge more. it was very important for the government to live up to the full faith and credit of the united states as the constitution calls for. he got that through. the debt immediately became very popular. it was subscribed very quickly, as they say on wall street. by the mid-1790's, american credit, which had been nonexistent in 1789, was one of the best in the world.
american bonds were selling at a premium in europe. a remarkable a compliment. hamilton had to set up things like the coast guard and collect the tariff, which was the main source of income in those days. after 9/11, it was the coast guard that cleaned up trinity churchyard because hamilton was the founder of the coast guard. akhil: you might think of washington more as an isolationist. trying to achieve independence from the great european powers. hamilton saw even further into the future and was more of a meddler by nature. the wheels were always turning. dreams, schemes, and plans. more of an interventionist.
imagining a world in which one day america would decide the fate of europe and the rest of the world. and america would hold the balance of the scale or throw its weight into pan or another. one washington wanted to leave europe alone and the hope that europe would leave us alone. hamilton, i think, in his larger vision -- again, both are proponents of national greatness. he was more than interventionist by nature. carol: this leads me to the next question, which is jefferson frequently claimed in his letters to his friends and followers, particularly madison and other anti-administration friends, against jefferson is busy organizing and anti-administration party, that
hamilton, and even washington, were in his terms monocrats. members of an anglomancy, who sound like a medieval guild, who were plotting, and planning and , eager to replace the republic that had been created in america with an imitation of the british political system. is there any weight to that argument or is jefferson just being his usual snide self? john: i am not aware of it. jefferson's -- i won't say paranoia -- but jefferson was a very good hater. he was the least favorite of the founding fathers, as far as i'm concerned. he deserves displays on mount rushmore, but he was not a nice
man. he had a very backward vision of the united states. he wanted it to be a republic of yoaman farmers. which was utopian then. jefferson lived in a wonderful world at the top of monticello divorced from the real world. , he hated commerce and banking. when we had a panic in new york in 1793 with bank stocks that suddenly crash, jefferson was delighted. he calculated they had lost $25 million. jefferson loved to calculate things. he said that was about the value of if the whole city of new york had been burned down. that thoroughly pleased thomas jefferson. hamilton had much clearer vision of where the world was going. i'm not sure jefferson ever read the wealth of nations, which hamilton certainly did.
carol: but he certainly did borrow from, that is he read, of how britain had risen to power through the creation of a public debt. he was more than willing to borrow those ideas. i don't dig it was because he wanted to be britain, it was because he wanted to best britain. john: i think he looked at britain as the most successful model of all the european countries. britain was a far better governed place than say, prerevolutionary france. the people, their rights for -- their rights were much more protected in britain. liberty was born in britain. jefferson loved france, loved paris. he always thought, what napoleon said of britain, a nation of shopkeepers. i think jefferson had that
opinion, and as a consequence looked down on them. akhil: we think of the idea of monarchy is having at least two dimensions. one is the dynastic idea, and you see washington denounces it from the beginning. i don't have anyone to give it to. and washington steps down after two terms. he was unanimously elected. he was unanimously reelected. he probably would have unanimously re-re-elected if you run a third time. jefferson tries to follow that tradition and tries to theorize my tenure will lead to hereditary, lead to a dynasty, so jefferson steps down and then madison and monroe. a two-term tradition begins. washington, you see, is not going to be dynastic.
about monarchy? john adams does have a son, and his name is q, as in w. [laughter] jefferson has daughters only. the monarchy line, they are living in a world where power has descended dynastic lady in all of the other regimes of the .orld line forchy is a great jefferson going up against adams ns who want to proceed their father. -- who want to succeed their father. the second dimension of monarchy, one is the dynastic issue, which really does come to the four in the context -- the fore in the context between jefferson and adams, but the other is how much power they should be. in that, jefferson and adams are more critical of washington when
washington yields executive power, but when they in turn get to wield executive power, jefferson acquires louisiana and abandons the strict construction principles, and thank goodness he is a bit of a hypocrite , because some of those principles are stupid. [laughter] akhil: he worked hard to repudiate them when he realized it was more complicated than we thought. [laughter] akhil: madison signs into law a renewal of a bank, the very bank that he and jefferson had initially opposed. why had they opposed that bank? you heard some idea. they were not commercial people. they do not understand thanks, commerce, cities must capitalism. hamilton growing up in a merchant house did. there is also this dimension
that on the bank in particular, that they were -- 80% of the votes against the first bank in the congress come from virginia and maryland. it is a principle states rights argument and are too much power in the federal government and that will be the seat of monarchy or something like that. you would expect the votes to be more randomly distributed. they were not. here is what they were actually worried about. if you have this national bank, it will be located in philadelphia, and that may lead to a chain of events in which the national capital actually stays in philadelphia or new york and does not go down to the bank of the potomac. it is connected to the assumption of state debt and all sorts of things. but they are virginians first, you see, and when it becomes clear that virginia is going to control government and there
will be the capital on the banks of the potomac, they make their peace with that bank. carol: jefferson thought a lot of things were ok as long as he was in charge of them. it wasn't even that implied powers really helped govern. it was more that they are safe now that i am -- i can trust me. there is a hubris and that that to me is always extremely irritating. when the constitution was proposed, jefferson was in france and he wrote a 20 page diatribe against ratification. he was absolutely opposed to it and his poor secretaries were copying this 20 page piece in he was sending it to everyone. patrick henry, whom he hated, even got hold of it. his major opposition to the constitution was the president
should only serve one year. it should rotate. akhil: rotation and the absence of the bill of rights. what we would today call term limits. carol: as soon as jefferson gets in office, it is really ok. akhil: to his credit, he does step down after two terms, and so does madison and monroe, and good for them. carol: no, i agree. but there is the sense that these things -- this power, this executive power in the right hands can be wielded, because in his case he is wielding it the sake of the people. in the case of the federalists, who knows what they're wielding that power for. akhil: in terms of the optics, washington does mimic certain symbolic and ceremonial aspects
of the british monarch just in how he presents himself. and jefferson does present himself as more of a man of the people. he dresses down, he wears slippers, he shakes hands and -- shakes hands instead of bows. it is beginning of the more populist idea, man of the people. washington's enactment of the presidency is more aloof and distant and legal in some -- aloof, distant, and regal in some respect. john: washington's personality was more aloof in some respects. he did not like people touching him, for instance. carol: thank you. john: a south carolinian. washington was not amused. carol: it was a bet.
he puts his arm around, but of course morris would try anything. he was one of my favorites. akhil: hamilton that morris that he would not have the audacity to -- carol: throw his arm around. akhil: morris took the bet, and said you have to pay up, but that was a stupid thing to do. washington looked at me with a withering glare that i was paid anything cannot happen. carol: we have questions from the audience and i think i can read the handwriting. washington frees his slaves in his will. hamilton was an activist in the new york society. did hamilton impact washington's changing view of slavery? an interesting question. akhil: i know of no specific conversation about slavery, but
i do think that washington being president in this city and coming to spend much more time in the north in general did have an important effect on him. new york is a slave state, there are slaves, i think one out of eight new yorkers at the time is a slave, but he can see the handwriting on the wall that slavery is on its way out in various parts of the north. carol: and also in his own plantation economy, i admire washington but there is a practical reason for this, as well. he had moved from growing tobacco to growing wheat. tobacco is labor intensive. wheat, as far as i know, you know, i have never lived in iowa, you just plant it and watch it grow. with slaves, there is an upkeep
involved. maryland and virginians were quite busy selling slaves to the rice plantation states, north and south carolina and georgia. because the crops they were moving to did not require this kind of slave labor. so washington's freeing of his slaves may have had philanthropic and a moral element, but washington was also quite a good agricultural manager and he could see that he really did not need the number of slaves that he had. here is one. does our current financial regulatory framework, the fcc, the cftc, the fdic, department of the treasury, trace its roots in any way to alexander hamilton and his thoughts and politics? john: i think alexander hamilton would be absolutely appalled at
the federal regulatory -- how we regulate banking and the monetary system. the federal reserve is a central bank like the bank of the united states that hamilton founded, modeled on the bank of england. but the federal reserve was never -- the bank of the united states was a unitary bank and the reserve was spread around the country. jefferson hated banks and he passed that down to his heirs. andrew jackson was a thorough jeffersonian when it came to finance. he thought gold and silver was the only money. he hated banks and he killed the second bank of the united states that madison had signed into law. we did not have a central bank for 70-odd years. the fed came into existence in 1913.
in 1907, jpmorgan was essentially the single bank of -- the central bank of the united states. they said, ok, he will not live forever and they set up the fed. they did not get it right the first time. the banking system has been a mess in this country. bank failure is as american as apple pie because of it. we have state banking, we have federal banking, we have the savings and loans, which were a disaster 25 or 30 years ago. you have never had one unitary, regulatory body looking over the whole banking system. we would do ourselves a favor if we could get toward that. carol: which contemporary u.s. or global leader is most like hamilton and which is most like washington?
[laughter] carol: u.s. or global leader. john: as i said earlier, i think nelson mandela, who gave up power. he was the founder of his country in the modern sense. he spent 28 years in jail and you might have thought he would be a little angry about that. but he was one of the greatest men of the 20th century. the analogy for hamilton, there have been a lot of brilliant people. the first that came to mind was margaret thatcher. carol: i would've thought steve jobs or someone in technology. that is someone with the genius and vision and wants to build -- who is the fellow? elon musk? who is going to send people around the moon. i am not volunteering.
price.t a very hefty carol: i think ralph kramden's wife. now i am getting myself. the person i wrote my first book about, a loyalist from massachusetts who went stark raving mad, readily said he -- irregularly said he would like to send his wife into space. that she should circle the moon forever. i would think in the sense of innovative and competitive and ambitious and visionary, that maybe we could look to someone in the tech sphere. akhil: it's interesting, because i do think of mandela as the leader of a revolution against the establishment, and then the founding president who comes to be universally admired and holds himself with a certain sort of dignity is a very good analogy.
that would be one -- that one came to mind. what is interesting is that steve jobs -- i was there, 80's -- i used to do venture capital before law school and i was at the initial public offering for apple and i talked to steve jobs that day, and i think that is a very good analogy. carol: good. we answer that question. [laughter] carol: what would washington have said if he were eulogizing hamilton? you know, morris gave the eulogy. morris was witty and funny and cosmopolitan and wrote beautifully, and he was robust in terms of the eulogy. what you think washington would've said? he was already dead, so he would not have said anything, really. [laughter] carol: it is important to remember that. what would he of said? john: he was a man of few words.
--e's second inaugural and address was the shortest in history. i think he would've been short and very effective, and a think he would've expressed his affection and respect for hamilton. akhil: tom sawyer got to see his own funeral. i think washington, if he had foresight, as he often tapped people -- he was good at picking ts, i think he would have said, mr. hamilton, would you draft me up -- [laughter] akhil: and hamilton would've been happy to oblige and washington would then well advised. washington was not a bad writer , but hamilton was a great writer. i don't think he would have minded writing his own eulogy. carol: i think he would've loved it. why does hamilton the immigrant
embrace the ideals of the american protest movement that led to revolution? so quickly and completely after emigrating here? the answer forap us. akhil: if alexander hamilton had stayed in st. croix, he never could have risen to the heights he did. this city in particular created opportunities for talented people to rise. he does, and james wilson does. another immigrant from scotland. he does see that only in america are people who are low born but have talent able to -- ben franklin sees this, too. when ben franklin goes to england, he is disrespected because he is low born. in the english system, if you are born in a certain strata, it
is assumed that is your lot in life. that is your station. that is the great chain of being. you are not allowed to show your talent. much of the actual, the real main springs that drive many of the great men of the american, -- of the american revolution including washington, jefferson, , adams, hamilton and franklin, all of those definitely, is the sense that in this british system, they are limited in what they could accomplish. it could be just some low level functionary. and washington wants to be more than that. and adams and hamilton, too. nowhere are there more opportunities than in the great city of new york. it is cosmopolitan in a way that
even boston is not. philadelphia is kind of quaker. this is where people from all around the world come together. s meet.eople's there is the exchange of goods and ideas and you can make it here. a new york city story in a very dramatic way. we call it, ridiculously, madison avenue, and it is hamilton avenue. [laughter] carol: it is also true that some of them believed that war is the moment in which you can prove yourself. your manliness and glory. even john adams, little portly john adams, writes that "i wish there were a war. we could ride to glory and be recognized." akhil: hamilton was the same way.
the same words verbatim to his best friend. carol: yes. akhil: henry lawrence. carol: yes. i think part of what compels hamilton to join quickly is opportunity, not just the environment of new york, but the sense that there is glory that you can get recognition in war. and in fact it is true. akhil: and the wheel can turn. a hamilton or a napoleon can into on top. this is interesting. carol: who got the better part of the dinner party deal with hamilton on one side and jefferson on the other. you all know the story is that they got together for dinner and hamilton gave away the capital, said you can have the capitol on the potomac if i can assume the state debts? who got the better deal? john: i think hamilton got the
better deal. , have always wondered historians sign an oath never to play the game of what is, but -- what if, but what if new york had become the political capital of the united states as well as the commercial capital and artistic capital, on and on? it would have been like buenos aires in argentina. there really is no other city in argentina. i think this country was very lucky that the political capital was put off in this swap by the potomac. [laughter] carol: i am just thinking that someone also -- were they not also going to make money off of that land sale? the virginians -- akhil: george washington. carol: the virginians like to
wax lyrical about producing food from the soil or producing the riches of the soil, but they were big plan to speculators. -- big land speculators. john: you bet. carol: i discovered and i don't -- did not know how to get into the new book and i wish i had. in the midst of the whiskey rebellion when the western counties of pennsylvania were rising against the federal government and were going to create their own country and excess tax be damped. washington sends a note to the manager of his far-flung properties in says, sell my land in that county quick. get what you can for it. there is trouble coming. john: inside information. akhil: washington was a little more willing to engage in those sorts of sharp dealings. hamilton was more scrupulous. carol: right.
akhil: given the norms of the time, there were things he could've cashed in on that he did not does what he wants most -- did not, because what he wants most of all is fame and glory, not money. carol: here is a question that i have no answer for. will you touch on hamilton's attending hebrew school? i have to say, my mother believed that anyone who she respected and admired in history was secretly jewish. [laughter] carol: so hamilton was jewish, columbus was jewish. [laughter] carol: the pope she liked was jewish. there was absolutely no doubt in her mind. if my mother was sitting here at this moment she would say, of course he went to hebrew school. but i don't know if this is true or not or what it signified or
what significant it had. there were rumors that his mother was jewish. john: i was not aware that he had -- i am slightly surprised that a tiny island would have a hebrew school. in the 1760's. akhil: here is what really is significant for us all. uniquely among the american constitutions of the era, because remember 11 of the states have written constitutions in 1787, and in every single state there is a religious test for holding office except in virginia. in nine of the states, or 10, it is in the state constitution. new york did not have one but added one. only virginia has no religious test for office holding and in most states, sometimes they have
to believe in the trinity, sometimes they have to be christian, sometimes it is a belief in god. in most states it is in the state constitution, and there is nothing like that in the federal constitution. the federal constitution explicitly prohibits a religious test for office holding in article six. that is a new thing in the world. virginia, it is just a matter of a statute. let's give jefferson his due, because he and madison push for that statue. patrick henry hates them for it. you mentioned the enmity between henry and jefferson. it is the statute of religious freedom. having no religious test and having that prohibition in the federal constitution itself is a pretty significant, new thing in the world. carol: and i don't think it came out of hebrew school. [laughter]
carol: if hamilton were here today -- oh. if hamilton wrote today a 52nd federalist paper -- that is all we would need. it is heresy to say, but if i have insomnia, picking up the federalist papers helps me go to sleep. what would it say about trump? i am going to pass on that one, i think. if either of you would like to step into that frey? john: it is usually a bad idea to raise people up from the dead and put them in modern politics. akhil: the world that hamilton -- hamilton writes the federalist essays on the presidency. the words he uses to characterize the american
presidency, words like energy, vigor, unity, secrecy and dispatch. that is his vision of the presidency. the presidency actually is to be given to someone who is a doer and knows his mind. these are virtues you need in the government and the need to be counterbalanced by other branches such as the liberation -- deliberation in the legislature, judgment in the judiciary. the courts very famously have neither purse nor sword, but merely judgment. the different branches of government actually embody in hamilton's different but
necessary view of the elements. carol: we are, unfortunately, out of time. [applause] >> we think you, all three. this is a new combination. thank you for coming tonight. it was a great program. what a great audience. come back, and stay for the book signing. thank you, so much. >> this year, c-span's touring cities across the country, exploring american history. next a look at our visit to charlottesville, virginia.